Are high water levels on Lake Ontario a precursor to more spring flooding ahead?

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Once again, the Lake Ontario water level is high thanks to the wet fall we had in Central New York. Some residents and businesses along the lakeshore are nervous that not only are they going to be dealing with flooding when the winds gust over 40 mph out of the west and or northwest, but non-wind induced flooding heading into the spring too.  

According to Bryce Carmichael, Hydraulic Engineer with the Great Lakes Team Lead, there is reason to be on alert or aware but not to panic at this time.  

Bryce says, “levels at this time of year are not a good indicator of what we are going to see in the spring. It’s really driven by Mother Nature; how much snowpack and snow melt we get in the winter coupled with how much spring precipitation comes in March and April.”

The Army Corps of Engineers analysis of the lake level data suggest there’s a 13% chance of water levels on Lake Ontario reaching 247.70 feet, also known as the threshold for still water flooding along the south shore of Lake Ontario. To help prevent Lake Ontario from reaching this height, the regulatory Plan 2014 is being used and prescribes very high, increased outflows helping keep the lake level in check at least somewhat. As of December 31st, the lake level is 9 inches above average for this time of year, but thankfully over two feet below the crucial flooding height and expected to go down another inch in the next month too!

Also, Bryce noted that two years ago in December 2019 the water level on Lake Ontario was about 5 inches higher than it is today and flooding did not occur the following spring. It’s this type of information that emphasizes the importance of the winter and spring precipitation amounts when it comes to flooding along the Lake Ontario shoreline.  

If we have an average winter and spring when it comes to snow and rainfall there should not be any flooding but if it’s more active, wetter/whiter property owners will have to be on guard according to Bryce. 

Also, about 85% of the water flowing into Lake Ontario comes from Lake Erie through the Niagara River which is uncontrolled and plays a big role on the water levels on Lake Ontario too. Thankfully, the Lake Erie water levels are down about two and a half inches compared to this time last year.

Soo…here’s to hoping for not too wet/snowy of a winter into spring for those up along the Lake Ontario shoreline. John DiPasquale NewsChannel 9. 

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